Major renovation projects for athletic programs are almost always complicated projects.
Redondo Union High School (Redondo Beach, Calif.) began the process about 10 years ago. In an added twist, the school changed athletic directors shortly after the project was underway.
Around 2008, Redondo Union received a grant for about $90 million, with about $45 million earmarked for athletics. The previous athletic director left in 2010, and Andrew Saltsman took over as the renovation ramped up.
The money went toward new locker rooms, a new gym, the remodel of an existing gym, a new aquatics center, and several other major and minor modifications across the campus.
Of the many concerns Saltsman has to track, one of them surrounds coordinating with coaches and school officials on the scheduling of practice and event venues so the athletic teams don’t miss a beat.
“Our water polo and swimming teams had to travel to another school site to find some pool time, and wrestling had to go to another school for a period of time,” Saltsman says. “They did the construction and renovations in stages so we could schedule around some of it, but there were always some challenges with walkways and getting around in addition to finding time at alternate facilities. We had to move some people around, but at least we have two gyms. While one gym was being built, the other was being used, and vice versa.”
Redondo Union has become a force in California athletics. The girls’ volleyball team won state titles in 2014 and 2015, the boys’ and girls’ water polo teams each won their first California Interscholastic Federation titles under Saltsman’s watch, and the baseball team also won its first CIF title in 2015.
“We’ve had a lot of first-timers recently,” Saltsman said. “Baseball started in 1915 and we won our first CIF title in 2015, so that was a pretty historic year and pretty cool to win it 100 years later.”
Strong Academics Make For A Strong Athletics Program
Redondo Union emphasizes school first and sports second, and Saltsman can point to the academic performance of Redondo Union athletics. Student-athletes average between a 3.3-3.4 GPA while non-athletes average between a 3.1-3.2 GPA.
To borrow a phrase, with great power (and size) comes great responsibility. Cherry Creek High School, the largest high school in Colorado, has embraced this mantra for its athletic and academic programs.
Cherry Creek is a juggernaut in athletics and academics not only in Colorado, but the entire country. In 2014, its performing arts department was one of 12 awarded a Grammy, recognizing it for making an outstanding contribution to music. This past year, its broadcasting group was awarded the NFHS Network Elite School in just its second year of existence. Its speech and debate teams are annually ranked in the top 10 of the country, its CyberPatriot team, which competes in science and technology competitions, finished No. 2 in the country last year and its athletic varsity programs averaged a 3.52 GPA over the same span.
Running an athletic program of such large size and expectations is no small feat, so it’s a good thing Jason Wilkins is at the helm as athletic director.
Athletically, Cherry Creek is competitive in each of its 26 varsity programs. The boys tennis program has 41 state team titles to its credit, having won the title all but three times since 1972. The girls tennis team has won state titles 34 times overall and 20 of the last 21.
Everybody gets a chance
Over 300 athletes try out for varsity tennis but only 11 make each varsity squad. Wilkins was adamant that one of the school’s top goals is to provide a place for everyone since they have 2,000 kids (over half of the student body) who go out for athletics.
One of the ways to incorporate so many students is to have multiple levels of competition. The tennis program, for example, offers six. If a player doesn’t make one of those six levels they are put in “The Ladder” where they play challenge matches in an effort to move up the ladder and make their way onto one of those teams.
“When you offer 26 programs and some of those have three, four, or five levels, it’s not always just about the varsity program,” Wilkins said. “We try to offer a spot for as many kids as possible as well as a good experience to all of our student athletes regardless of if they are a varsity athlete or a backup on the freshman team. We want them to have a great experience and to leave our school with a positive outlook.”
There’s little fun in fundraising
Cherry Creek has booster clubs for most of its programs, but the majority of funds raised through them goes directly to that program, which helps the program but not Wilkins’ general fundraising account. His solution: almost every program hosts a tournament or invitational with the proceeds going directly to the general fundraising account. It’s a win-win; the program gets notoriety and Wilkins gets money that benefits the entire athletic department. It’s not like the events are a cakewalk for Cherry Creek either, most of them bring in some of the best teams in the state.
“The competition level is high. Teams want to come to our events since they are very well-run and they want good competition,” Wilkins said.
Cherry Creek’s business group, DECA, also runs its school store which sells athletic apparel. With the school’s size and number of athletes, it’s another way for them to raise money which is split between athletics, business, and technology for the school.
Partnering with Eastbay
When Wilkins took the job, he thought Cherry Creek could do a better job branding itself. Eastbay Team Sales provided the opportunity to build and portray an identity that Wilkins was excited about.
“Eastbay has allowed us to have a style guide. Now I can say, ‘here’s the font you use, here are the sizes, here are the logos you can use.’ So we show up or people come to our place and know that it is Cherry Creek,” Wilkins said. “It’s like when you see Ohio State or Michigan, everyone knows their uniforms and colors.”
Cherry Creek is on top of both its academic and the athletic game. With young programs already earning national recognition and established ones continuing their success, it looks to keep up that level of greatness for years to come.
Founded 21 years ago and located in northern California, Granite Bay High School is a National Blue Ribbon School and a top-500 school in the nation, according to U.S. News. The school offers 20 advance placement courses as well as 24 international baccalaureate offerings.
Athletic Director Tim Healy is quick to mention Granite Bay focuses more on academics, which makes it all the more impressive to be one of the top athletic schools in the region as well.
“It’s a good place to raise your family and send your kids to school. We are a public school so we offer an incredibly rich diversity of athletics, academics, and performing arts. Any kid can find their niche here,” Healy says.
Helping students find a sense of identity is a task that Healy takes seriously and one that he’s very proud of his school for excelling at. They have a highly respected theater and art departments as well as one of the best marching bands in the state. The school newspaper, The Granite Bay Gazette, has also won many awards for excellence over the past decade.
“I love the fact that if you really want to do something here you’re going to find opportunities to explore it and advance yourself,” said Healy.
Sports: A Winning Formula
Not to be outdone by academia and performing arts, the athletics department is impressive in its own right. Consisting of 24 varsity programs, Granite Bay fields a number of successful squads. The football team has made the playoffs 18 straight years and has two state championships (2000 & 2012). The boys’ golf team has traditionally been strong; the girls’ volleyball team went 45-0 in 2013 and won a state title; and the water polo program is also considered top-tier.
The swim team is Granite Bay’s most successful program and is perennially ranked in the top 25 nationwide. In 20 years, their girls team has never lost in league and their boys team has won league 19 times. They’ve produced six NFL players and a couple of Olympians, but what Healy is most proud of is seeing students become successful members of society.
“I’m happy that high school isn’t the pinnacle of our kids’ lives,” he says. “What they get out of Granite Bay high school is a building block to go on and do something even better. You can have a win-at-all-costs focus at the high school level, but you do that at the expense of the broader picture – developing character and people.”
The Eastbay Team Sales Tie
With many programs at Granite Bay, it’s important for Healy to have one vendor that’s able to service all of their programs with as little hassle as possible. That’s one of the reasons he chose Eastbay Team Sales to provide athletic gear, team stores, and other needs.
“Having one vendor allows me to have one billing program where I can easily monitor expenses and payments, and as an AD, that is a really important function,” Healy says. “It’s a big deal when I’m trying to manage a multi-hundred-thousand dollar budget and trying to watch what people are spending. I really need that visibility.”
He particularly enjoys the continuity of service provided by Eastbay Team Sales.
“I have a singular point of contact I can tap into to get information, quotes, and ideas for any product,” said Healy. “I feel like there is a relationship there and within that relationship I can rely on that person, I trust that person, and I feel like that person is highly responsive to our requests. There are times where I really need a response and I need it immediately, and I really appreciate that we get that from our rep.”
Granite Bay high school is thriving and Eastbay Team Sales is dedicated to help them not only maintain, but grow their success and brand for years to come.